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The Finer Points of Hermit Crab Racing

by Tracy on

Scene from the middle of nowhere So Giamma walks up to me on a beach. A beach attached to an island in the middle of absolute nowhere. The nowhere being the central Ha'apai group of the Tongan archipelago, about seventy miles south of the big smoke known as Neiafu, on the much more populated island of Vava'u. Tonga is not exactly a well known place anyways, I'd venture to guess more people have heard of Papua New Guinea or certainly Fiji. But anyway, here we are, on what is literally an uninhabited, palm tree covered island in a remote part of a very remote bunch of other islands. So Giamma walks up and he's got that smile he does when he's up to something. He's holding two fabulously beautiful sea urchin shells, they're purple, very large, jewel like and unfortunately so delicate they'll never survive the tender ride across the reef back to the boat, but we enjoy them anyway. The sea urchins are not what he wanted to show me though, what he really wants me to see is what he has crawling around inside one of the urchins. It's a hermit crab about the size of a dried garbanzo bean. "So I am ready to race," he says, "where is your track?" Giamma holds up his potential champion racing crab, it promptly pops from its tiny shell and pinches the crap out of his finger, oh yeah, he's got a frisky one alright.

Just to briefly explain the exciting sport of hermit crab racing; it generally involves wagers, and quite a bit of drinking. But since none of us on the beach today have any cash or rum on our persons, we're simply engaged in the racing aspect of the sport. Bearing in mind that the wagers and drinking are actually the most entertaining aspect of hermit crab racing. So we proceed to the track I previously drew in the sand; a larger circle surrounding a much smaller one. I of course being an experienced hermit crab racing aficionado since the sport originated in my now native Caribbean, well of course I have a stable of high speed hermit crabs ready for post time. I select my best one, and a dark horse. So what you would normally do at this point is take a swig from your mojito as you toss your cash in the sand along with all of the other participant's bets. Then everyone places their hermit crabs inside the small circle- first crab to reach the outside of the big circle and cross the line unmolested by any of the humans involved wins.

Ofolanga Island So I'm certain by now you're just dying to know the finer points of hermit crab handicapping, like how do you know your crab will bring home the bacon? I mean there's nothing worse than watching everyone else's crabs take off like a shot for the border leaving yours still hold up in his shell not doing squat but losing your money. The trick is to select a mean one, a really feisty critter that doesn't care that you're this huge giant that just scooped him up from his happy home, and now he's trapped inside your giant hand; he's gonna fight you man, he's going to take you down and it's gonna hurt. This is the sort of critter that wins multiple rounds of drinks. So Giamma is holding up his thumb and there's this tiny hermit crab pinching so hard he's hanging by his fighting claw that is actually the size of a grain of rice but Giamma is like "Aieee!" And I realize I'm in trouble. And sure enough, we run three races in a row and Giamma's garbanzo bean sized hermit crab actually sprints like a Greyhound and wins hands down every time. So back on board we've cracked open a fresh bottle of Mount Gay XO, because, well, we're from the Caribbean and we like to drink fine rum.

Our shells Ok, it wasn't just the thrilling afternoon of hermit crab racing on a deserted island in the middle of nowhere that got us all thinking about toasting our experience with Mount Gay XO, and then watch as a dazzling South Pacific sun dips behind a one thousand meter high active volcano. We had fantastic sailing to boot, I mean yeah! The weather here has been absolute crap for the most part. We've had like a month of rain, and frankly it sucks. So at the crack of dawn this morning we set out for what local Tongans consider to be the middle of nowhere, and low and behold, we have amazing wind, a perfect angle, and sun! We sail seventy miles on one tack, a straight shot to our destination of fabulous BFE. And the boat is a train at full steam, she's making twelve knots without even trying and we're passing every other yacht by like they're pussies. We get chatty radio calls from other sail boats as we smoke past them. We're no doubt being uploaded to people's Face Book pages as I write this, because FG is just so fabulous looking, and under full sail, going flat out, she kicks butt, and that is 'boat pride' people. That is why you crack open the Mount Gay XO, toast a terrific sail and recount all those thrilling hermit crab races on that deserted beach that Carmen found all of those fantastic shells on that New Zealand Customs will most likely try to pilfer. I mean like, yeah! Woo-hoo! We're Feelin' Good!

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